No shopping, no waste: a new way to cook

 

Deciding what to cook and shopping for the ingredients can be a daily post-work drag. A new company delivers the raw materials and recipes for five meals for the working week to your door. Foodie MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBYand kebab-lover EOIN BUTLERgive it a try

IF YOU’RE sick of the last-minute, after-work dash around a crowded supermarket, as you frantically try to think of something to cook for dinner, help may be at hand. Dineasy, a company started two months ago by Ciara O’Hagan, delivers the raw ingredients for five dinners, and detailed recipe cards explaining how to prepare them, to homes in the Dublin area.

The food comes in biodegradable boxes, one for each dish, containing the ingredients you’ll need. The service costs €65 for five dinners for two people, or €6.50 per meal. Orders for a single person and larger numbers are also available.

O’Hagan plans the menus, writes the recipes, shops for the raw materials, packs the orders and delivers them. The menu changes every week and orders placed before midnight on Wednesday are delivered on either Sunday or Monday evenings. “Once I know how many customers I have, I do up my shopping list and order my meat and fish, which is delivered to my unit in Spade Enterprise centre, already vacuum packed, in the quantities needed. I buy my vegetables and herbs from the Smithfield market and the dry goods from wholesalers,” she explains.

The delivery service is aimed at people who don’t enjoy shopping for food, or don’t have time to do it. Some customers have said to O’Hagan that following the recipe instructions feels like doing a cookery course at home. It’s suitable for people who are housebound, for example, or students whose parents are worried about their eating habits.

There are other advantages, too. Food waste may be reduced as impulse buying is eliminated, and portions, though generous, are carefully controlled. And as everything is cooked from scratch and the menus are carefully planned, it is a healthy way to eat.

Marie Claire Digby and Eoin Butler spent a week trying it out and kept a diary of their experiences:

Monday

Bolognese sauce with tagliatelle

Marie Claire Digby (MCD)I approach the 25-minute Bolognese sauce with caution – this is something I usually cook very slowly, over three or four hours. The meat is labelled “round mince”, origin Ireland. To add a bit of depth to the sauce, I throw in a few rehydrated porcini mushrooms and some Worcestershire sauce.

When it comes to adding a whole tin of tomato puree to the 500g of beef mince, I have to make myself do it, as it seems like far too much. I need to add a couple of cups of water, not mentioned in the instructions, to stop the sauce drying out. But the recipe cleverly balances the intensity and sweetness of the tomato paste with a good dash of balsamic vinegar at the end of the cooking time, and it turns out fine; not the same as my slow cook version, but tasty and perfectly acceptable.

Each week’s recipe plan includes one meal that doubles up, with half to be used later in the week, and there is more than enough Bolognese sauce to go in the freezer for another dinner.

Eoin Butler (EB)“Explain it to me like I’m six years old,” is Denzel Washington’s mantra in the film Philadelphia. It could just as easily serve as my motto in the kitchen. On a good day, I’m capable of boiling a potato, but that’s about as Jamie Oliver as it gets around here. Ciara O’Hagan claims her healthy dinner recipes are idiot-proof. Lady, we’re about to put that to the test . . .

Today’s Bolognese is the culinary equivalent of a double episode of Nationwide. Not a dish to set pulses racing in other words, but the ingredients provided here do seem pretty decent: half a kilo of round steak mince, a red pepper, an onion, a clove of garlic, two varieties of tomato goo and a sprig of rosemary.

The mushrooms go straight into the bin. I’m sorry but that’s non-negotiable. Mushrooms are fungus. As a child, I once dreamt they were growing out of my scalp. And an ex-girlfriend of mine once cheated on me with a guy who ran a mushroom house. (In restaurants, I usually just say I’m allergic.)

The remaining mix gets chopped, sliced, chucked in a pot and served up as a moderately tasty gloop with tagliatelle and a salad. A cinch. Roll on Tuesday.

Tuesday

Salmon baked in a foil parcel with green beans and lemon garlic butter and baby potatoes

MCDThis one is quick and easy to put together, but the green beans are still squeaky when the salmon is cooked, and might have been better steamed separately rather than cooked in the parcel. And the pairing of carrots and red pepper as the oven-roasted vegetable side dish is a little weird.

But the Scottish salmon, from McAllister’s fishmongers, is excellent and the portion very generous.

EBTonight’s recipe proves slightly trickier. The Ireland v Estonia game is starting at 7.45pm and some of the things being demanded of me here seem more like party tricks than cooking instructions. (Know how to grate lemon rind onto a teaspoon anyone?)

The green beans take ages to top and tail. There are about 100 of them and they all keep wobbling about on the chopping board. Do decent, hard-working people really need this kind of hassle when they come home at night? I doubt it. I don’t even work that hard and I can hardly be bothered.

Despite being in the oven for the requisite 25 minutes, the salmon turns out not to be fully cooked. My dinner companion insists on putting hers back in.

“You can eat salmon raw,” I protest. “No you can’t,” she says. The match begins in five minutes. I eat my salmon partially cooked and, at the time of writing, appear still to be alive.

Wednesday

Pork teriyaki stir-fry

MCDThis is a recipe I will be holding on to. Orange juice adds a nice zing to the ginger, soy sauce and teriyaki marinade, and cuts the saltiness. The meat, from Kelly brothers, comes as nicely trimmed strips and is described as “Stroganoff pork”. Chopping a red pepper – the third in three days – I find myself hoping that’s the last of them I’ll be seeing for a while. The rice that is supplied is a good quality basmati, but there are no instructions to soak it, even briefly, before use, which would give a much better result.

An email arrives from my co-tester asking whether or not to use the whole “clump” of ginger. What he doesn’t tell me is his “clump” is about the size of a potato, and as he’s less pleased with this dish than me, I expect the lot went in the pot.

EBIf there’s a flaw in the Dineasy dinner plan it’s that the five dinners provided have a shelf life of five days. Therefore, one missed dinner can throw the entire operation into a spin. Tonight, a friend has invited me to a gig. It begins in half an hour. So either I cook this now or I have pork teriyaki stir-fry for lunch tomorrow. This will need to be quick.

Some of the ingredients are unfamiliar to me. Ginger looks like a cross between a potato and a clove of garlic. I have no idea how much to use, so I contact Marie Claire. She advises me to throw in the lot. This may have been a calculated attempt to sabotage my dinner, because the result is almost inedible. So far, the half-cooked salmon is still way out in the lead.

Thursday

Stuffed chicken wrapped in smoked bacon with baby potatoes and boiled carrots

MCDAnother excellent recipe, with chopped mozzarella, spring onions, mushrooms and sundried tomatoes stuffed inside a very large chicken breast. The smokiness of the bacon permeates the chicken breast and the stuffing is moist and delicious. I can’t finish my portion, and it is just as good for lunch the next day, cold and sliced thinly. But the vegetables are looking a bit the worse for wear, and on hindsight I think I should have wrapped them up before storing them in the fridge in the daily boxes.

EBBy and large, Ciara’s recipes have been easy to follow. But there has been the occasional blip. On Tuesday, a missing comma left me wondering what a “heat drain” was and how I was supposed to remove the carrots from it. In preparing today’s stuffed chicken, meanwhile, I’m asked to place a chicken fillet on a casserole dish and “slice down the middle making sure not to cut all the way through”.

I make a short incision across the surface of the chicken breast, but the pocket created proves wholly inadequate to accommodate the stuffing. I’m in my sister’s house and she rather testily suggests that the fillet should instead have been carved open like a book from side to side. “If that’s what they meant, why didn’t they say that?” I ask. “Some basic level of cop-on was probably assumed,” she snorts.

While she steps in to salvage the situation, I’m banished to the next room to play with my niece. Served with a generous helping of baby potatoes and a less generous helping of carrots, this ends up being my second favourite meal of the week.

Friday

Bolognese and tagliatelle (from the freezer)

MCDIt’s just as tasty this time around. We eat it with spaghetti rather than the supplied tagliatelle – and the minor rebellion feels strangely satisfying after cooking and eating to order all week.

EBFriday is supposed to be reheated spaghetti Bolognese night. But it’s the weekend, I’m going out and I’m all vegetabled out for now. I’m no Paul the Octopus, but I suspect there may be a kebab house in my near future.


Dineasy delivers to Dublin city and county and parts of Co Kildare. There are plans to extend the delivery area soon. See dineasy.ie